Thursday, March 1, 2012



One faction of Somali Warriors

By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
February 29, 2012

Last week, there was renewed interest in Somalia by the international community. The London Somalia Conference attended by most leaders of the region was testimony to this. What remains a puzzle are the motives behind this renewed quest for peace in this war-torn terrorist and pirate infested piece of earth in Africa.

Somalis have suffered for over two decades as the world turned a blind eye to the suffering of ordinary folks at the hands of self-appointed warlords that have dominated Somali society since the departure of Siad Barre.

It is this persistent and endless chaotic situation that prompted Somaliland to go its separate ways and form its own peaceful nation in the North. The same informed the Somalis in Puntland to also set up their own autonomous state.

As these separatist developments took shape, the rest of Somalia and especially Mogadishu became more chaotic with each passing day. In the process, living in Mogadishu became more dangerous than living in Northern Ireland, Beirut or Gaza strip when violence in those regions was at its peak.

Attempts by the Americans in the early 1990s to intervene on humanitarian grounds flopped after a number of its marines were slaughtered on the streets of Mogadishu. Since then, very few international interventions were offered to save Somalia as it degenerated into a culture of violence.

Attempts by the Ethiopian government to intervene and prop up President Abdullahi Yusuf’s transitional government against the Islamic Courts in 2004 only managed to drive the Islamists out but never restored order in Somalia, more so in Mogadishu. If anything, Islamic Courts adherents only mutated into the present Al Shabaabs militias that the AU allied troops have been battling with for several years now.

 The more mainland Somalia has become chaotic, the less have the African Union, European Union , the UN and the other super powers found it fit to recognize the relatively  peaceful autonomous states like Puntland and Somaliland despite  the latter petitioning many AU members to give it recognition.

However, late last year, something happened in Somalia.  Kenya, a very unlikely country took the war to the Al Shabaabs inside Somalia. The Kenya government had gotten tired of criminal incursions of Al Shabaabs on its territory.
These activities included piracy on its waters, kidnapping of tourists and other Kenyans across the border and of course attacking internal security posts and killing ordinary innocent Kenyans in these cross border raids.

It would appear that seemingly peaceful Kenya’s sudden change of tact took the Al Shabaabs by surprise. Despite threats of retaliation, suicide bomb attacks in Nairobi promised by the Al Shabaabs high command would seem to have fizzled out. If anything the KDF forces seem to have scored major victories against these terrorists, prompting the UN to negotiate tangible support for the Kenya Military.

As things stand now, there are advanced negotiations on merging the Kenyan troops with the current AU troops on the ground while at the same time, footing the bills incurred by the Kenya government to date; especially replenishing military hard ware used in the war so far.

What the Kenya Defense Forces have proved to the international community is simple; Al Shabaabs can be defeated and Somalia can be peaceful again. What the KDF have done is what Tanzanian Defense Forces had done to Uganda in 1979 when Idi Amin was ravaging that country. Mwalimu Nyerere had proved to the world that a warlord like Idi Amin Dada could be toppled to stop him from killing Ugandans unnecessarily.

The other motivation for the renewed interest must be the oil wells in Puntland whose production is just a matter of weeks now. Industrial giants of the West, Russia and China have seen it prudent to restore normalcy in Somalia to allow for the smooth exploitation of this much needed natural resource.

Whereas industrial countries may be driven by the prospect of oil in Puntland, the UN and the AU must register their presence if for nothing but to remain relevant should a peaceful solution finally be found for Somalia.

However, as the world strives to restore peace in Somalia through military and persuasive means, let us stop and ponder the future of Somaliland and Puntland, the two states that have exhibited a lot of potential for a just government and demonstrable democratic practice.

Somaliland in particular has held several successful elections, rebuilt its judiciary, the military and structures for service delivery. It is a functional economy that has thrived for almost two decades without recognition by the world community. In other words , despite begging to be recognized and accepted as an independent state just like we did to South Sudan the other day, we have turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the pleas of Somaliland.

Should peace return to Mogadishu by any means, will the world community force back Somaliland and Puntland into the marriage they had nullified 20 years ago?

Yes, let us bring back peace to Somalia but let us not lose sight of the reasons Somalilanders chose to go their separate ways. A forced marriage might just trigger another round of conflicts.